Point and Shoot (2014)


Directed by: Marshall Curry

There are times when ‘Point and Shoot’ feels like a call to arms, an appeal, to twenty-something men who live comfortable safe lives to discover their manhood. I certainly felt that pang for adventure after watching the documentary, it made an itch, which has been there in recent months, a bit itchier.

Mattthew VanDyke is currently over in Iraq fighting against ISIS. Not so long ago he was an average twenty something bloke twiddling his thumbs, day dreaming about adventure. Like so many young men he lacked the ability to take action and make that happen. But one day he took action, he completed a foreign affairs course, purchased a motorbike, and went to Spain, from there Gibraltar, where he gazed across at Africa. Then he biked across North Africa and the Middle East. He made friends along the way, including some from Libya.

VanDyke miraculously completed his journey, which included stints working as a war correspondent alongside American forces in Iraq, and a chastening trip into Afghanistan. When he returned home he planned to settle down with his long term girlfriend and lead a steady life. Then the Arab Spring happened. Revolution was in the air, most notably in Libya, as the people, including the friends he made, decided to rise up against Muammar Gaddafi.

Feeling he needed to help his friends VanDyke left his family and went back to Libya, not as a filmmaker, but as a revolutionary.

What makes this story all the more unbelievable is that VanDyke suffers badly from OCD. His obsessive tendencies frequently delayed his travelling. He’d stop his bike, thinking he’d caused an accident, and drive back a couple of miles just for a peace of mind. He’d freak out when sugar got spilt on his guns and ammunition.

VanDyke’s time in Libya during the revolution is the most interesting part of the documentary. Particularly how the war is captured in the social media age. At times it seems like boys playing soldiers. The rebel army is a ramshackle band of brothers. What it does show is that most of the time modern warfare is uneventful. There’s a lot of hanging around, a lot of confusion and boredom; and I think this documentary shows that.

As for Matthew VanDyke himself, he’s a complex character and not a particularly likeable one at times, particularly how he treats his family, and goes against the advice of a senior journalist who at one stage tells him to go home. I’ve tried to avoid going into too much detail around this as I don’t want to reveal spoilers which would affect your enjoyment of the documentary, should you seek it out, but often it is the case that the most unlikeable personalities are the best documentary subjects.

‘Point and Shoot’ is a fine documentary about a flawed man who seeks adventure. When he finds adventure, he wants more and more.



Point and Shoot on IMDB


The Dictator (2012)


Directed by Larry Charles

This was a Christmas present from my sister, she called from Australia a week before the parcel arrived and spoilt the ‘surprise’ element of the present, however due to a dodgy phone signal I misunderstood her description of this film and was under the impression that she had sent me a copy of ‘Downfall’. I’ve chosen to briefly pass comment on ‘The Dictator’ purely because this DVD was a gift, and it would be almost wrong of me just to watch it and then forget the film, even if this would probably be for the best.

My initial thoughts after watching ‘The Dictator’ was how much it reminded me of remake of ‘Arthur’ starring Russell Brand. In which a wealthy man, who has enjoyed a very spoilt and privileged upbringing and has no real understand of anything outside of his estate, goes out in the multicultural metropolis that is New York, meets a kooky chick and undergoes through a mammoth personality change during the course of a mediocre ninety minutes; though ultimately if you are going to compare the ‘The Dictator’ to another comedy then you’d probably say that it was an updated, and far inferior version of ‘Coming to America’.

Taking advantage of the Gaddafi craze that reached its height during the ‘Arab Spring’, ‘The Dictator’ saw Sacha Baron Cohen create a new character called Admiral General Aladeen, the dictator of the fictional Republic of Wadiya located somewhere in Northern Africa. Like the late Colonel, Aladeen is flamboyant and has a childish mean streak. Aladeen is keen to develop weapons of mass destruction and when the UN begins to snoop around his facilities he travels to address the UN at a conference in New York. In the Big Apple Aladeen gets kidnapped by the CIA, loses his identity and ends up getting replaced by his imbecilic double. This is orchestrated by Aladeen’s scheming uncle Tamir (played by Ben Kingsley) who has got into bed (diplomatically speaking) with the Chinese.

Whereas Baron Cohen’s creations Borat and Brüno worked great in mockumentaries bouncing off bemused members of the public, putting such characters in a straightforward comedy film, as proven in ‘Ali G Indahouse’ leads to mixed results. Admiral General Aladeen is essentially Borat in a military uniform and once you get past the obvious jokes surrounding terrorism and Arab stereotypes then all you’re left with is a ‘The Prince and the Pauper’ like caper with a saccharine Hollywood ‘happy’ ending.

The biggest problem is that ‘The Dictator’ follows such a dated path; Cohen, a man who at several stages of his career been ahead of the curve, not to mention risky, provocative and daring makes this formulaic comedy which is disappointingly tame.


The Dictator on IMDB
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